070319_PNN_Museum

Airplanes sit on the tarmac at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport near Dallas.

A museum dedicated to displaying and demonstrating the workings of U.S. military aircraft from past decades is considering taking off from its Rome home and flying a few miles south to Paulding.

However, officials with The Museum of Flight first plan to gauge the local community’s interest in supporting the nonprofit museum, which attracts about 30,000 annually to its current home at Rome’s Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.

Terry Tibbitts, director of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, said museum officials earlier this week announced they were “assessing the potential” of relocating its collection to Dallas.

The museum’s collection includes 26 historic airplanes, as well as military vehicles and a large collection of military memorabilia, said Peter O’Hare, a spokesman for the museum.

He said its board asked him to coordinate the plans for a possible move to Paulding, which it could decide within months.

However, before making a move, museum officials plan to gauge interest from the county’s business and civic communities about supporting the facility; and the general public’s willingness to provide the volunteer labor needed to operate it, O’Hare said.

“We only go where we’re wanted,” he said. “We come with needs.”

O’Hare also said he hoped homeowners near the airport would tolerate the museum’s aircraft, some of which he said is “loud and ugly.”

Tibbitts told the Paulding County Airport Authority Wednesday, June 19, the airport would receive the income from a long-term ground lease of about an acre.

It also could see income from a possible lease of office space adjacent to its main hangar which has remained unfinished for years because the airport never leased it, he said.

“We’ll finally have a tenant in that space,” Tibbitts said.

He also said the museum’s working historic aircraft were not produced to be fuel-efficient, which means the museum would need to buy fuel from the airport, Tibbitts said.

Authority member Dan Nolan said he believed “it’s important for taxpayers to realize when you talk about bringing a museum, you’re not talking about supporting the museum financially.”

“We, the airport authority, are not paying the museum to move here,” Tibbitts responded.

The museum, established in 2010, is a nonprofit funded by corporate and private donations and memberships.

Its offices are in Hixson, Tennessee, where it reportedly originally stored its collection before outgrowing the space and moving it to Rome’s airport.

Tibbitts also said it has been operating for about a year without a new lease on the hangar building where it stores its aircraft — some of which date to World War II, he said.

He said a steel company donated a 12,000-square-foot hangar building to the museum and it is considering where to erect it other than Rome.

The museum’s website states it is “dedicated to raising awareness of aviation and the important role it has played in shaping our nation’s history.”

“One of the best features of the museum is that we have planes that actually fly,” the website stated.

Its airplane collection includes a T-28 “Trojan” Alpha Model, a T-28 “Trojan” Bravo Model, both used in battle during the Vietnam War; and a Beechcraft C-45. Vehicles include a M38A-1 Jeep,according to the website.

“Not only do we provide displays, a vast collection of historic flight and military memorabilia and maintain these planes, the museum also donates to the local children’s hospital,” the website stated.

“The Museum of Flight has donated ($25,000) to the child life department and pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital.”

The museum is also involved with Toys for Tots, regular blood drives and will be found promoting aviation with flyovers and static displays at various events and air shows around the southeastern United States, the site stated.

For more information about the museum, visit mofts.org.

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